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Senator OVERTON. I will clear that up with the testimony of the witnesses.
At that time the Chief of Army Engineers was contending that the local levee boards should furnish the rights-of-way on these tributaries. This Red River, Atchafalaya, and Bayou Boeuf Levee Board was advised by the district engineer that unless they adopted such a resolution that the probability was that they would not get their levees constructed under the Federal flood-control project and the money would be devoted to some other construction, and they were in a desperate hurry to have those levees built, because they anticipated if they did not, there would be a disastrous overflow, and such a large community as the city of Alexandria, where there was a population of 25,000, might be inundated. So, under those circumstances, they adopted the resolution.
They take the position that they were just compelled to do it in order to protect their district. But they did not subscribe to the interpretation of the Chief of Army Engineers that the local levee board, under the flood-control act, should furnish these rights-ofway; but they did adopt the resolution because they were told, in effect, no resolution of donation and no levee construction.
After they did acquire the rights-of-way the matter was taken up with the Attorney General, and the Attorney General ruled that the local levee boards were right from the beginning, and that it was the duty of the Federal Government, under the flood-control act, to pay for these rights-of-way.
Senator PATTERSON. And that is this identical case?
Senator OVERTON. That is this identical case with the exception that I am going to mention to you.
Then, after he so ruled, the Mississippi River Commission was instructed by the Army Engineers to go ahead and pay these claims, but when they reached the claim of the Red River, Atcha falaya, and Bayou Boeuf Levee Board they found this resolution of donation to which I referred, and thereupon they went back to the Attorney General and said, “ What about this? We have a resolution of donation.” He said, “ In view of this resolution I cannot hold that you are under obligation to pay for these particular rights-of-way.”
The result has been, I think, a rather unjust discrimination. This levee board cooperated with the Federal Government and undertook to get these rights-of-way so these levees could be built and the other levee boards that did not are to be reimbursed under the ruling of the Attorney General and this levee board is not to be reimbursed, and, as Gen. Lytle Brown, who is Chief of Engineers, has stated, and stated to the Secretary of War, he thought it was a very unjust discrimination and that something ought to be done and he suggested to me that this bill be introduced in order that the matter may be corrected by an act of Congress.
Senator PATTERSON, As I understood the colonel, none of these claims have yet been paid.
Senator OVERTON. That is what I understand.
Senator PATTERSON. All have been held in abeyance and all will have to be resubmitted to the Attorney General.
Colonel GRAVES. We have not held any in abeyance actually. They have only submitted two and those two are in process of clearance.
I am a little anxious about those. I do not know how they will come out. I think the local interests are waiting to submit the others until they find out the results of those.
Senator PATTERSON. How many claims of this character are there?
Colonel GRAVES. There will be quite a number. I do not know how many,
but the levees have been built on the south bank of the Arkansas from Point Bluff to Red Fork in which the local interests provided all the rights-of-way and there will be some more in the Atchafalaya Basin. This is on the south bank of the Red. There will be some more in the Atcha falaya Basin.
Senator PATTERSON. What is the aggregate amount?
Colonel GRAVES. I estimate that the aggregate amount will be between two and three million dollars. Nobody can tell exactly. The decision not only applies to the past but applies to the future and it will be necessary to provide some for levees not yet built.
Mr. Jacobs. It was included as a part of the flood-control plan. It was included in the figures making up the Chief of Engineers’ estimate.
Senator OVERTON. I was going to put you on the stand next. I think that is all for the present, Colonel, STATEMENT OF HARRY JACOBS, CHIEF STATE ENGINEER OF
LOUISIANA AND PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF STATE ENGINEERS OF LOUISIANA
Senator OVERTON. Please state your residence and your occupation and what official position you occupy, Mr. Jacobs.
Mr. Jacobs. Harry Jacobs, chief State engineer and president of the Board of State Engineers of Louisiana, residing in New Orleans. In my position of president of the board of State engineers I am engineering adviser to all the levee districts in the State.
Senator OVERTON. Mr. Jacobs, will you make a brief statement of the facts leading up to this claim now being advanced by the Red River, Atchafalaya, and Bayou Boeuf Levee Board incorporated in this bill?
Mr. Jacobs. The flood-control act provides that the local interests shall acquire rights-of-way for the construction of levees on the main stem of the Mississippi River. After consideration by the Federal engineers as to the rights-of-way on the tributaries, it was finally decided upon by the Chief of Engineers and the district engineer that the obligation was on the Federal Government to acquire rights-of-way on the tributaries which includes, and which were affected by, the south bank of the Arkansas, the Red River, and the Atchafalaya. Additionally, that would include floodway levees of the Boeuf Basin and the Atchafalava Basin.
Following the Flood Control Act of 1928, Major Lee, who was district engineer at Vicksburg, made contact with property owners on the south bank of the Arkansas River to acquire those rights-ofway, and the question of price came up, as to what the district engineer thought would be fair and proper and what he was willing to pay, and that ended in the district engineer not acquiring the rightsof-way, and he then called upon the local levee board of Louisiana, that is recognized by the Legislature of Arkansas, to carry out floodcontrol work in the State of Arkansas—he requested that this local levee board of the Tensaw Basin acquire rights for them, agreeing that if the board acquired them, they would be reimbursed for the amount they obligated themselves to pay to the property owners. The levee board acquired the entire rights-of-way for the entire south bank of the Arkansas River. Claims were presented in 1929, and it has been a question of title from that time to this that has held the claims up.
Governor Lowden owned the largest piece of land where the new levee crosses, and it is my understanding that involved an amount of about $30,000. It is my understanding that after the titles were abstracted that the claim was cleared, but because of the question of local drainage districts and questions of that kind the claim has been
Work on the Red River was immediately started, and the Government acquired rights-of-way for a number of levees for which they paid, and during the constructing of the levees, under the general program of construction of levees on the Red River, the question first came up
about the Government not being able to agree on values of the land.
Senator BAILEY. Now, wait a minute at that point. Who was condemning this land and taking it over?
Mr. JACOBS. The Government.
Senator Bailey. Upon the condemnation, was this sum of $652,736.79 found to be the value?
Mr. Jacobs. That includes a number of levees. Leading up to that point, after they had acquired and paid for rights-of-way for different new levees then, in carrying out a contract on the levee across the Peart tract of land those people decided they wanted more money for their right-of-way.
Senator BAILEY. That was after the condemnation!
.. Senator BAILEY. Was that after the agreement?
Mr. JACOBS. After they had acquired other rights-of-way for other levees.
Senator BAILEY. But had an agreement been made as between the Government and these parties for the purchase and sale of the land?
Mr. Jacobs. They had been negotiating with the property owners. Senator BAILEY. But no agreement?
Mr. Jacobs. I do not think they had come to an actual agreement as to the actual value of this particular piece of land.
Senator Barley. You said they wanted more. That indicated they had agreed on less, but changed the figure.
Mr. JACOBS. No; it was generally understood that these rights-ofway would cost approximately what they had been paying for other rights-of-way just above this tract.
Senator BAILEY. That is very broad—“ generally understood.” Did both parties to the contract understand that?
Mr. Jacobs. The procedure was this
Senator OVERTON. I think I know what Senator Bailey wants to get at and I know the facts. When the Federal Government under
took to acquire these rights-of-way it met with considerable difficulties in acquiring them because local property owners wanted and asked too much for their properties, and they thought that the local levee board could be of a great deal of assistance in obtaining these rights-of-way for two reasons, first, they could have more influence over the citizens locally; and, secondly, because if the local levee board acquired them they did not have to pay over and above their assessed value. Is not that true?
Mr. JACOBS. That is true.
Senator BAILEY. The assessed value for State taxation, or assessed for the purpose
Senator ÖVERTON. Assessed for the purpose of taxation.
Senator Bailey. You said the local levee board. Is that a Louisiana organization?
Senator OVERTON. A Louisiana organization. Therefore the Federal Government wished the cooperation of the local levee board in getting rights-of-way. Is that correct ? Mr. JACOBS. Yes, sir.
Senator BAILEY. Then the local levee board represented these rights-of-way could be obtained for a certain figure and subsequently the property owners asked for more? Is that what you are driving at?
Mr. JACOBS. No, sir. When the Government first started their work on the Red River there were a number of levees to be built. They acquired the rights-of-way themselves by
Senator BAILEY. You mean the Government?
Mr. JACOBS. The Government contacted the property owners and made agreements with them, acquiring land, for which they paid. They cleaned up those and then moved down and they had a levee across the Peart brothers' tract. The Government engineers took it for granted that the same agreements which they had with the other property owners there would go through, and they were led to believe by the Peart brothers that the price would be acceptable. The Government then let the contract for the levee
Senator BAILEY. Who were the Peart brothers? Mr. Jacobs. They were property owners and owned the land upon which the new levee was to cross.
Senator BAILEY. And it is in respect to them that this money is to be appropriated?
Mr. JACOBS. Part of it.
Senator BAILEY. And they led the Government to believe that this land could be obtained at a lower figure!
Mr. JACOBS. They would sell the property at a figure agreeable to the Government, and a contract was let on that basis.
Senator BAILEY. And they refused to carry it out!
Mr. JACOBS. Yes, sir; that is what I am trying to bring out. Then the contract was let. The contractor moved on the job and started the construction of this levee. He crossed certain property there, and when it came to going on the Peart tract they objected. They said: Hold on; instead of us taking $75 for this land, we want $150 per acre, and unless you give us $150 an acre we will not allow you to go on the property.”
Senator BAILEY. Was any portion of the money in this bill to be paid to the Peart brothers?
Mr. JACOBS. I do not know whether that is included in this or not; but if you will allow me to clear that up
Senator BAILEY. Go ahead.
Mr. JACOBs. At that time the Federal engineers stated that they would not be held up by these property owners. I came to Wash ington
Senator Bailey. Do you think that they should have taken a different position after the Peart brothers had led them to believe that the Government could have the property at a less figure?
Mr. JACOBS. I believe that the Government was entirely correct in this case, and so we agreed—we agreed in this way, that Mr. Hudson, president of the levee board, went to see these property owners and told them that he thought that the price that the Government had offered them was approximately fair. They said, “Oh, no." They employed an attorney and were going to stop the job. I came to Washington to see General Brown and, in discussing this matter with him, he told me, “ We are willing to pay a fair price for these rights-of-way, but we are not going to be held up by property owners and be forced to pay twice what the land is worth." I said, “General, I believe I can help you in this case. If our local levee board were asked to get these rights-of-way for you, we can get them under the State law at the assessed valuation, which is about 40 percent of the actual valuation. We can do that by appropriation proceedings and turn it over to you, and I think it is probably the best way out of this, because then you will not have another case of this kind coming up where the contractor was stopped in the work.”
Senator BAILEY. That was a procedure under eminent domain by your State organization? Is that correct?
Mr. JACOBS. Yes, sir. That is the first case that came up.
Senator OVERTON. That is not exactly correct, for the reason that we do not proceed in Louisiana through the exercise of eminènt domain to acquire rights-of-way for levee purposes. We have the right of appropriation under the Louisiana law. The levee board takes the land and builds levees on it, and so they said to the Federal Government, “Here is the land; you build the levee on it.” They do not have to go to court at all.
Senator BAILEY. And then pay for it?
Senator OVERTON. On the main stem of the Mississippi River, the local levee board
Senator BAILEY. You interest me very much there. On what basis is the sum determined upon in the event of an appropriation instead of a condemnation? I get your distinction between the Louisiana law and the common law. · The common law is condemnation, and the Louisiana law is under the Code Napoleon, and proceeds by way of appropriation.
Senator OVERTON. It is appropriation under the Louisiana law.
Senator BAILEY. How do you determine the damages or the value of the land appropriated? What is your method ?
Senator OVERTON. The amount of damages cannot exceed the assessed value of the property for the preceding year, and usually the assessment value is below the actual value. So far as these claims are concerned, I have understood from the secretary of the levee board, who is here, that they have been submitted to the engineers